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[bey-lif] /ˈbeɪ lɪf/
an officer, similar to a sheriff or a sheriff's deputy, employed to execute writs and processes, make arrests, keep order in the court, etc.
(in Britain) a person charged with local administrative authority, or the chief magistrate in certain towns.
(especially in Britain) an overseer of a landed estate or farm.
1250-1300; Middle English baillif < Old French, equivalent to bail custody (see bail1) + -if -ive
Related forms
bailiffship, noun
subbailiff, noun
underbailiff, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for bailiffs
  • Things went awry when travel costs rocketed and car-pools had to be arranged in order to keep the bailiffs from the door.
  • Many observers fear that action from the bailiffs will be met with violence from some inside.
  • Permitting court bailiffs to act as paid supervisors for visitations runs afoul of several of these provisions.
  • During special trials and impaneled juries certain sworn deputies act as special bailiffs.
  • bailiffs receive their compensation from the county.
  • The professional bailiffs and custody officers maintain control and decorum within the courtrooms and court facilities.
  • They rented the courtrooms and jail space and hired the bailiffs, criers, and janitors.
  • bailiffs are of various kinds and their offices and duties vary greatly.
British Dictionary definitions for bailiffs


(Brit) the agent or steward of a landlord or landowner
a sheriff's officer who serves writs and summonses, makes arrests, and ensures that the sentences of the court are carried out
(mainly Brit) (formerly) a high official having judicial powers
(mainly US) an official having custody of prisoners appearing in court
Word Origin
C13: from Old French baillif, from bail custody; see bail1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for bailiffs



mid-13c., from Old French baillif (12c., nominative baillis) "administrative official, deputy," from Vulgar Latin *bajulivus "official in charge of a castle," from Latin bajulus "porter," of unknown origin. Used in Middle English of a public administrator of a district, a chief officer of a Hundred, or an officer under a sheriff.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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